One of the bolder moves of the 1990s was the Smashing Pumpkins’ epic double album release Melon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. A genuine reflection on the state of mind of a generation loaded with superb musicianship and quality songs that have lasted the test of time. These days bands are hard pressed to release a single album with quality songs through and through. That’s why it’s a call to note when one nearly matches the Pumpkins’ feat. Thus is the case with the Rhode Island band Deer Tick. Their double CD release Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 matches the Pumpkins’ boldness and the results are a fine, fine listen.
The band has a bit of a paranoid schizophrenic history, but in this release it is used to present a powerful statement on life and love of a weary human. The two simultaneous releases offer you a choice between the band’s acoustic leanings that their hard core fans first fell in love with to their rockier side that at times seemed lackluster and beyond their reach. This isn’t London Calling, but it is darn good. The acoustic collection offers hints of Fleetwood Mac, “Refugee” era Top Petty and even some country blues while the rocker (Vol. 2 ) gives you a taste of Green Day meets the Ramones.
The softer volume contains multitudes of emotions from the most realistic cancer song you’ll ever hear “Hope Is Big” to “Doomed From The Start” a tearful tale of a home in disrepair that comes off more like a novel than a song. There is also the Fleetwood Mac-esgue “Only Love” that in the hands of Stevie Nicks would reach the top of the charts. From there, they make a bold move to optimism with the brutally honest “End Of The World” and the Petty-tinge “Rejection.”
The rockier Vol. 2 offers just as many rewarding listens with no clunkers at all. “SMF” will have you chuckling out loud once you pay attention to the humor and meaningful lyrics(and what the song’s title stands for), while fans of the hard hitting Replacements might find themselves checking the album credits to make sure Paul Westerberg does not physically appear, because his influence is all over this record as well. “It’s a Whale” contains the pure joy of the ‘Heys’ lifted right off of every Ramones record and “Sloppy” would have fit on the aforementioned Melon Collie quite nicely.
That doesn’t mean this two album set of twenty songs is a remake of old tunes. Deer Tick exhibits tremendous confidence and self-awareness lyrically as well making the music sound fresh. The rumor for the last few years was that the band, who had ticked off (pun intended) their hard core fans with their last release a mishmash of forgettable hard rock drivel, had broken up and called it quits. It turns out for those of us willing to give the band a second chances it was worth the understanding. Some of you, like me, who consider a comparison to the Pumpkin’s classic sacrilegious should give these two records a spin. You might just welcome an updated version of the Smashing Pumpkins at their peak.